Tom Dixon

Scent sucker

While I am out of the country for the next few days my very good friend Sarah Brown will be your guest host. Sarah blogged at Que Sera Sera for over ten years but currently writes at her Tumblr, Damn Gina.


Just like no one is the villain in their own story, no one would think of themselves as impractical, would they? I imagine even Imelda Marcos, in her heart of hearts, saw herself as reasonable and perhaps even a little restrained. So yes, just like the other 7 billion humans on the planet, I like to think of myself as a fairly sensible person. One of the best compliments a friend ever gave me was to say, “Sarah, I think of you as a good judge of BS.” I love a good sale, I don’t spend an exorbitant amount on material goods, and I have a very short list of things I will shell out more for a higher quality just because I’ll reap the benefits every day (shoes, bras, towels and bedding). Otherwise, I am not comfortable spending more than $45 on a pair of jeans, $60 for a haircut, or taking more than $80 out of the ATM at a time. And yet I have spent $50 on a bottle of liquid that I spray into the air and the scent dissipates a few minutes later. And I will do it again and again. I am a sucker for smells.

Perfumes, soaps, scented body washes, room sprays, candles, laundry detergents: they are my kryptonite. I know everyone likes to smell good, but I expect a little more than just good. Oh, that’s nice, your bathroom hand soap smells like apples, but I am spending my life in pursuit of something that will simultaneously make me smell clean, sexy, cozy, at home, far away, full of nostalgia, and sort of like the library in a castle near a vineyard. And I believe it exists, that I’ll find it! And I will spend so irresponsibly while I search!

When I lived in London, I was obsessed with going to the Byredo perfume counter every time I was within three tube stops of Liberty, and trying to get another sample of one of their scents I loved called Blanche. Blanche smelled like a very rich woman whose house was calm and had clean wood floors and huge windows. I was into it. A few years ago, my husband bought me a different Byredo perfume for my birthday that smelled amazing, but its description on the website involves the phrase “clacking oars.” Mmmm yeah, sell it to me, girl. But the scent-describers are constantly upping their game when it comes to utter impenetrable ridiculousness. Take this two paragraph long description of Figues et Garçons Nez a Nez cologne, including such helpful phrases as “collusion with the buffalo presents a tenable stature” and “alibis will be needed for silence and rest backstage.” WHAT DOES THAT EVEN SMELL LIKE? A coked up sweaty ox avoiding calls in the green room? You know how you write that kind of bullshit? You take some peyote, you eat a thesaurus, and you have access to Google Translate. Sign me up for this job right now.

So I’m searching for a magical smell that will function like a combo Valium-vibrator for my brain and I know it’s out there, somewhere, I just haven’t found it yet. But the fun part is the search! And you know where there are tons of things to search? The internet! You know, where you can’t smell anything. This is the worst idea ever and I do it all the time.


After years of this, I’m good at spotting the words that I do like (amber, wood, moss, fig) and the words that I don’t (floral, green, rose, young). I know that a little vanilla goes a long way, that “leather” never smells the same twice, and that I can never remember if I like bergamot or not. I also know that “musk” is code for butt sweat. But add in the extra layer of online shopping, and all of my common sense goes out the window. I cannot tell you how many times I have had to appeal to my Twitter friends to talk me out of buying scented things online. My bullshit detector works perfectly well until it comes up against a $60 candle on the internet that claims to smell like air and then I’m like, “Well, I do like air…” 

Once I’m on the hunt, my brain gets so excited that this might be it, our holy grail scent, so it skims words I’m not sure of and leads me down paths like “What is ‘wild clary sage’? I don’t know… clary, that sounds like clarify, clear… I bet it smells, like, clear. Yeah!” Then I spend $40 plus shipping and my Dust Bowl grandparents roll over in their graves.

The worst is some retailer named Tom Dixon. Tom Dixon, I don’t know who you are aside from a decadent asshole who’s really got my number, but every time a sale features Tom Dixon candles, I have to sit on my hands and chew the insides of my mouth because no way am I spending $80 on a candle without having smelled it first, but I’m also dying to know what “A reminiscence of tea time with a pot of Earl Grey, scones with strawberry jam and the drive home in a ’52 Bentley with tatty leather seats” smells like. (Actually, I asked this on Facebook and my friends had much more satisfying responses than any smell could have given me.)

Thankfully my friend Antonia went to a shop in London that sells this candle and reported back to save my money, it smelled “very sneezy, hint of cleaning product.” She also confirmed my suspicion that Byredo’s “Peyote Poem” smells like Johnny Depp’s balls. The ladies behind the counter agreed and everything. I got your collusion with the buffalo right here.